THURSDAY MARKET CLOSE: Sterling hit by disappointing sales

The London Stock Exchange building. Picture: Getty
The London Stock Exchange building. Picture: Getty
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A surprise 0.5 per cent fall in official retail sales data put pressure on the pound during a lacklustre session for European stock markets.

Economists said the unexpected month-on-month drop in sales volumes for March was likely to see first-quarter economic growth slow to about 0.5 per cent, from 0.6 per cent at the end of last year, when official figures are published next week.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “With the backdrop of rising wages and falling prices, by all accounts this should have been a stronger reading – it’s now calling into question just what we’ll see in terms of the initial first-quarter GDP release.”

Sterling was down against the dollar and euro, wiping out gains made yesterday after minutes of the Bank of England’s most recent rate-setting meeting suggested that inflation might recover more quickly than previously expected.

However, the FTSE 100 Index still ended the day in positive territory, up 25.43 points at 7,053.67, helped by mining stocks that benefited from a rebound in metals prices.

Anglo American topped the blue-chip risers’ board, closing up 48p or 4.7 per cent at 1,062p, while Antofagasta gained 35p to 784.5p and Fresnillo added 24.5p, or 3.5 per cent, to end the session at 727.5p.

Financial stocks were left trailing in their wake, with insurer Legal & General suffering the biggest drop among the top flight, finishing down 12.1p or 4.4 per cent at 265.1p. Old Mutual was another heavy faller, sliding 6.4p to 231.1p.

Among retailers, Tesco was up 2.65p at 225.3p, having tumbled more than 5 per cent yesterday after results showed a record full-year loss of £6.4 billion for the supermarket.

Rival grocer Sainsbury’s, which today set out plans to cut 800 roles among its department managers, rose 4p to 267p.